Iron Heart: The Brian Boyle Story
American Red Cross: The Brian Boyle Story
On July 6, 2004, eighteen-year-old Brian Boyle was driving home from swim practice. He lived with his parents in Welcome, Maryland, a small town near the Eastern Shore. The roads are narrow and windy in this rural part of the state. At one intersection, a speeding dump truck plowed into his Camaro, totaling the vehicle and practically costing Boyle his life. He suffered massive internal damage and lost 60 percent of his blood. A helicopter whisked him to a local hospital with a state-of-the-art trauma unit. Doctors had to jumpstart his heart eight separate times during surgery. To lessen his pain, the medical staff also put him in a chemical-induced coma which lasted two months.
With his mother and father sitting vigil at his bedside, the prognosis looked grim for the former bodybuilder and competitive swimmer who would end up losing 100 pounds. Had he suffered any brain damage? Would he ever talk or walk again? Would he always remain in a lifeless vegetative state? Imprisoned and with no memory of the accident, he was unable to speak, blink, or signal to anyone even though he could hear the doctors, nurses, and his parents talking in his hospital room.
Here’s Brian recollection from this period when he found himself inexplicably trapped inside the coma, medically known as being in a “locked-in” state:
It was a little over a month and a half when I started to regain consciousness to the point that I knew what my surroundings were and I wasn’t hallucinating. But this was before I started talking. Once they put me in a comatose state, the doctors didn’t know that when I woke up if I would be mentally okay; if I would be able to function; if I would be able to walk or sit up or even do anything without having to be helped. I was pretty much going to be a vegetable, and that’s what they were predicting. I remember one day this doctor talking to my parents in my room about me having to go to a nursing home, because that’s where I was going to be spending the rest of my life, and I remember hearing that and being totally conscious of what he was saying; I didn’t like the sound of that and realized I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a hospital bed in a nursing home. I’m mentally here, but nobody knows that because I can’t communicate. I’m paralyzed. I can’t move my fingers. I can’t blink. I can’t do anything but lie here and just suffer. I was trapped. I was in a mental prison. I could not get out or tell anybody that I was okay. I was just hoping that they weren’t going to pull the plug on me because I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I couldn’t do anything. I screamed from the inside. I tried to do everything I could. I really tried hard, but it just wasn’t working.
Some days I would sleep. I would be in and out of consciousness. I was once awake for about a week; perhaps I don’t know if I were actually awake, but my eyes were open for the whole time, so I was sleeping while my eyes were open. It was horrible. Just horrible stuff. I was so weak that I couldn’t even close my eyelids. The nurses would have to put some kind of saline solution or Vaseline ointment on top of my eyelids.
Miraculously, however, Brian managed to unlock himself from this hellish solitary confinement, of reaching the other side of the coma barrier, and gratefully rejoined the land of the living. His reentry began with a faint smile, the weak moving of an index finger, of saying a few words.
Within several weeks, he was making rapid progress, undergoing daily hours of rehab where he had to relearn such basics as eating, speaking, showering, using his arms, and walking, But he also set out to achieve what seemed like two impossible physical challenges: joining the swim team at St. Mary’s College, and competing in the Hawaii Ironman triathlon in Kona-Kailua. Given the severe extent of his injuries, this desire appeared absurd, His doctors were concerned, if not alarmed, by his decision. He had lost his spleen and his lungs were still badly damaged. Yet he accomplished both goals, though it took many months of hard work and incredible willpower despite setbacks, to retrain his wrecked body to become what it had once been.
On October 13, 2007, Boyle crossed the Ironman finish line in 14 hours and 42 minutes– 30 months after the catastrophic accident which had actually pushed his heart clear across his chest. Not only had Boyle cheated death, but he had triumphed in one of the world’s toughest endurance events while being shadowed throughout the long, hot day by an NBC television crew.
Following his amazing comeback in Kona, Boyle continued to train hard as a multisport athlete and personal trainer. He’s now a regular competitor on the triathlon circuit– and plans to compete again in the 2009 Ironman. He’s also been very much in the media, with newspapers, magazines, television and radio shows interested in his amazing story. It’s a saga of limitless inspiration, personal heroism, physical courage, and of course, complemented by the loving support of family and friends. Many were rooting for Brian’s recovery, and providentially, he didn’t disappoint. them. The American Red Cross now seeks him out to speak at athletic events. Men’s Health magazine, in its November 2008 issue, named Brian one of its “20 Heroes of Health and Fitness,” joining sports legends Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong.
Brian’s story of how he went from coma to Kona is one of a kind, and it is safe to say that this brave young man has no intention of ever slowing down.
Through the Eyes of the Patient: The Brian Boyle Story
Join Brian Boyle in this session as he tells his personal story of his fight back from near death after a horrific automobile accident. He will focus on his experience as a patient who, upon emerging from a medically induced coma, was unable to move or talk, yet could hear, see, and feel pain. Mr. Boyle will provide vital information from the patient’s perspective to help participants gain insight about how to provide care to patients who are aware yet unable to communicate.
"Absolutely outstanding! He is just an awesome individual. He spent so much time with our attendees signing books and talking about the personal situations they had encountered. Most attendees were nurses."
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